Lawmakers conclude legislative session
Last update: May 15, 2017
While Tennessee lawmakers heard testimony on medical marijuana this session, lawmakers’ adjourned with issues surrounding medical marijuana unresolved. Many of the bills brought up this year can be brought back in January when lawmakers return, since 2017 was the first part of a two-year session.
Hopefully, the Legislature will catch up with the vast majority of Tennesseans, 75% of whom agree that seriously ill patients should have access to medical cannabis, according to a 2014 MTSU poll. Please take a moment to encourage your legislators to pass a meaningful, inclusive medical marijuana bill that includes in-state access to medical cannabis.
Decriminalization hits roadblock
The two largest cities in Tennessee, Memphis and Nashville, both passed ordinances in 2016 that give an officer the discretion to charge someone with a civil infraction for possessing small amounts of marijuana. One of the reasons for this was that the criminal law has been enforced unequally: In 2010 in Tennessee, there were four African Americans arrested for marijuana possession for every white arrested, despite the fact that both races consume marijuana at about the same rate.
However, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill that repealed marijuana decriminalization laws in Nashville and Memphis. The bill said “state government law preempts local government enactments with respect to the regulation of and appropriate sanctions for conduct involving drugs and other similar substances.” This controversy highlights the need for statewide reform. Please ask your legislators to support replacing criminal penalties with civil fines for simple possession.
Tennessee slightly reduces penalties for marijuana possession
Third and subsequent convictions for the possession of marijuana used to be felonies, punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. But in 2016, the legislature reduced that penalty to a misdemeanor, so people convicted of non-violent possession of most drugs will no longer suffer the stigma of a life-long felony record.
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